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Guide To Making Product Catalogues for Print & Digital

Guide To Making Product Catalogues for Print & Digital

Suppose you are browsing online or even flipping through the pages of a beautifully designed print catalogue as a customer. What do you see? Is it the beautiful pictures? The descriptions that are easy to understand? Or maybe it’s just how well everything is laid out? A good catalogue is like a store window for your business – it shows off all your best products and makes people want to keep looking.

This complete guide will help you create truly impressive product catalogues. We’ve got everything from planning and design to writing copy that sells and picking fantastic visuals. So grab yourself a cuppa and get comfortable – by the end of this, you’ll be able to assemble a catalogue that makes money and leaves an impression.

Why Bother With Product Catalogues?

Examples Of Product Catalogues

I know your thoughts: “Do we still need catalogues in this digital era?” But here’s the catch: catalogues are powerful marketing weapons businesses of any size or industry can use. I like to think of them as your sales team that never sleeps takes breaks, and promotes your products at any given time.

A good catalogue does the following:

  1. Presents all your products together in one place
  2. Gives detailed descriptions of each item so customers can make an informed decision before purchasing
  3. It helps establish a brand identity and professionalism among potential clients who may not know much about what you do yet.
  4. Is something physical that can be shared at events or meetings as another form of marketing material beyond just having an online presence like most companies these days would have
  5. It can be used alongside websites and other online platforms to enhance digital marketing.
  6. Caters for those who prefer having things printed out rather than reading everything off screens all day (yes, they exist!)

All in all—catalogues drive sales and customer interaction better than anything else could ever hope to achieve digitally alone. When you hold one (or flip through it on your device), those items suddenly become more tangible; they immediately seem more natural and desirable.

Planning Your Product Catalogue

Product Catalogue Design Services

Okay, I've convinced you – now let's get into the nitty-gritty of planning your catalogue. Like any big project, prep work is vital to nailing the execution.

Set Your Goals and Budget

First, what are your aims for this catalogue? Drive online sales? Boost brand awareness? Promote a seasonal range? Get clear on your goals from the outset.

Next, set a realistic budget that accounts for:

  • Design/artwork
  • Photography/image costs
  • Printing and distribution (if physical)
  • Any extra features like inserts, folds, etc.
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A defined purpose and budget will keep you focused as you make decisions.

Research Your Audience and Competition

You know your products like the back of your hand, but do you know your customers just as intimately? Spend some time building an in-depth picture of your ideal buyers:

  • Demographics (age, gender, location, etc.)
  • Interests and lifestyles
  • Buying habits and motivations
  • Pain points your products can solve

Understanding your audience will shape everything from your catalogue's look and tone to the critical info you highlight.

It's also worth digging into what your competitors are doing with their catalogues. While you want to avoid copying them directly, you can identify gaps, trends and successful approaches to inspire your catalogue.

Decide on Format and Features

Will your catalogue be print, digital or both? Each format has pros and cons to consider:

Print Catalogues

  • Tangible and great for brands selling premium/visual products
  • It is more costly to produce but can convey luxury
  • Easy to share at events and appointments
  • Environmental impact to bear in mind

Digital/Online Catalogues

  • More affordable and editable
  • Interactive features like video, animation, etc.
  • Quick to share via email and social media
  • Reliant on the user's device and internet connection

If going print, think about size, paper stock, finishes like embossing or die-cuts and any personalised regional editions you may need. For digital, web-optimised PDFs or shoppable/embedded catalogues are popular options.

Organise Your Product Info

Now it's time to gather all the product details and assets like descriptions, specs, prices and images you'll need. I'd recommend storing everything neatly in a spreadsheet or content management system.

As you build this master catalogue content file, consider the following:

  • Categorising products into logical sections
  • Prioritising your hero products or key ranges
  • Planning lifestyle/situational images beyond just straight product shots
  • Including scannable barcodes or QR codes for easy re-ordering

With your ducks all lined up neatly, you'll find the catalogue much more accessible to build later.

Designing A Catalogue That Sells

How To Design A Product Catalogue

Your catalogue design plays a massive role in shaping that all-important first impression. These pointers will help your products look their absolute best:

Nail Your Brand Identity

Colours, fonts, and graphic elements should align with your brand identity and remain consistent. If needed, invest in defined branding guidelines before starting your design.

Your catalogue's overall aesthetic should reflect your brand personality, too. Are you fun and quirky or more minimalist and sophisticated? Let this vibe shine through.

Composition and Layout

You'll want to carefully plan layouts that allow for simple navigation and tell a cohesive visual story. Some practical approaches include:

  • A design grid system to organise text and image placement
  • Clear sections and product categories with distinctive visual dividers
  • Spreading hero/priority products across high-impact spreads or the catalogue front
  • Considered the use of white space to let products breathe
  • Displaying simple product thumbnails alongside in-depth feature pages

Styling and Photography

Words only go so far – you need stellar product imagery to drive those “shut up and take my money!” moments. If budget allows, consider:

  • Working with an experienced product photographer
  • Hiring models for lifestyle shots that show products in use
  • Building out sets/scenes to showcase products in aspirational settings
  • Mixing up angles, crops and styling for Variety
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If you're snapping shots yourself, maximise natural lighting and play with different backdrops, props and compositions to showcase all angles and details.

Branding and Customisation Options

The absolute joy of catalogues is all the branding and personalisation opportunities:

  • A striking cover design with your logo embossed or spot UV
  • Customised versions for different regions, verticals or promotions
  • Inserts, belly bands and other print finishes
  • QR codes linking to your website, app or video content

Think creatively – the options are endless for adding extra pops of pizzazz that'll make your catalogue irresistible to flip through.

Writing Product Descriptions that Sell

Apple Macbook Product Description

Nice visuals only get you so far – your product descriptions and supporting copy must also reel customers in. Here are my pro tips:

Benefits Over Features

Stats and specs are all good, but customers connect with benefit-driven messaging. Focus on your products' solutions and advantages, not just the details.

For example:

❌ “This glass bottle has a 500ml capacity with an airtight silicone seal.”

✅ “Keeps drinks fresh for days with this leak-proof, portable 500ml bottle – perfect for the gym, office or great outdoors!”

You invite customers to picture themselves with the product by highlighting real-life use cases.

Tell a Story

Between those mouthwatering lifestyle shots and vivid descriptions, aim to transport your reader into a world where your product is the must-have hero. Some tips:

  • Use sensory language to spark their imagination
  • Introduce characters/scenarios they can relate to
  • Speak in their language with on-brand humour and personality
  • Highlight unique origins, inspirations or traditions

The more narrative depth you can weave in, the more memorable and desirable your products become.

KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

Don't let wordy, jargon-filled descriptions scare off your audience. Keep your writing clear, concise and easily scannable with:

  • Short, snappy paragraphs
  • Simple sentence structure
  • Bulleted or numbered feature lists
  • Highlighting key benefits/facts
  • Calls-to-action like “Buy Now!”

A great tactic is front-loading must-know info and then expanding on more detail afterwards – that way, you cater to both skim-readers and detail-lovers.

Optimise For SEO

Optimise product descriptions for search engines if your catalogue will exist online or live on your website. This allows more shoppers to discover your catalogue naturally.

Smart tactics include:

  • Conducting keyword research on high-volume, relevant search terms
  • Neatly incorporating these keywords in titles, descriptions and metadata
  • Marking up content with appropriate HTML tags
  • Including internal/external links

Getting Your Catalogue Out There

Handing Out Product Catalogues

You've poured your heart into creating a beautiful, benefit-packed catalogue – now it's time to get it into your ideal customers' hands (or inboxes)!

Print Distribution

If producing a physical catalogue, you've got several cost-effective distribution channels to leverage:

  • Direct mail to existing/prospective customers
  • Insertions into complementary print publications
  • Sharing at events, tradeshows and in-person meetings
  • Displaying in your physical stores/premises
  • Direct sales through third-party retailers in your industry

To drive web traffic and sales, always include clear calls-to-action directing people online or to your nearest brick-and-mortar shop.

Fulfilment services can handle everything from printing to packaging and postage if managing it in-house isn't viable for your business.

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Digital Sharing

For an online catalogue, smart sharing is a must to maximise reach and engagement:

Email Marketing

  • Feature your catalogue in dedicated email campaigns
  • Include links within your regular newsletters/updates
  • Use intelligent personalisation to tailor versions

Website

  • Embed your shoppable catalogue on relevant product/category pages
  • Make it downloadable as a PDF or interactive flipbook
  • Advertise via banners, pop-ups and announcements

Social Media

  • Share teasers and behind-the-scenes glimpses to build anticipation
  • Launch with posts/Stories linking to your virtual catalogue
  • Reshare periodically and pin key posts

Video Platforms

  • Film a walkthrough/intro video for YouTube and branded channels
  • Add annotations linking to popular catalogue pages

The more places you share, the more opportunities for people to discover and engage with your products!

Tracking and Measuring Success

Like any good marketing initiative, you'll want to put measures in place to gauge your catalogue's performance. Key metrics could include:

For Print:

  • Coupon/promo code redemption rates
  • Trackable phone number monitoring
  • Increases in web/foot traffic
  • Product sales tied back to the catalogue

For Digital:

  • Overall pageviews and engagement rates
  • Click-throughs from specific referral sources
  • eCommerce conversion rates
  • Social shares and engagements

Surveying customers can also provide valuable qualitative feedback to refine future editions. Analytics show you what's working numerically – but their voice tells you why.

Conclusion

There you have it – a roadmap to crafting a catalogue that turns window shoppers into committed buyers. By investing time into meticulous planning, eye-catching design and finely-tuned copy, you can create a selling powerhouse that reflects your brand in the best possible light.

The key is delivering value and inspiration on every page via lush product imagery, relatable storytelling, or a seamless user experience tailored to your audience's needs. In a world of infinite choice, your catalogue is your chance to curate the products, education and delight that'll make you their go-to brand.

So go forth and get cataloguing! Deploy strategic distribution, carefully monitor your results, and refine that formula. With an outstanding catalogue in your arsenal, you can bring products to life in a way that eclipses any social feed or online store.

FAQs

How often should I refresh/republish my catalogue?

This depends on your industry, inventory cycles, and the frequency you launch new products/ranges. Generally, update your catalogue annually to reflect your latest offerings. Seasonal refreshes (quarterly, bi-annually) are wise if you have a lot of product churn.

Should I gate my digital catalogue behind a lead capture form?

There are pros and cons to this. Requesting basic contact info can boost newsletter signups/generate leads but may deter some casual browsers. A happy medium could offer a free preview/abridged version to ignite initial interest.

What's better – a physical or digital catalogue?

There's no universal answer – it concerns your business, audience and goals. Many companies find offering printed and online editions an effective one-two punch. Digital is more accessible for quick updates but doesn't beat a gorgeous, tangible print catalogue for product types like homewares, fashion or premium goods.

How much should I budget for catalogue production?

Costs vary hugely based on print quantities, embellishments, professional photography needs and overall scope. As a very rough guide, basic digital catalogue creation tends to cost £3,000 to £10,000, while quality print catalogues can range from £6,000 to £35,000+. Be sure to get itemised quotes based on your precise requirements.

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Should my catalogue be shoppable?

Absolutely! Making your digital catalogue shoppable by embedding ecommerce functionality or linking straight to individual product pages can significantly boost impulse purchases and conversions. Just ensure a seamless, intuitive buying experience.

How can I make my catalogue more sustainable?

If producing a print edition, look into environmentally-friendly paper stocks and inks. For packaging/postage, ditch excess plastics for recycled/recyclable materials. Digitally, optimise for fast page load times and host using green hosting services. An even better eco approach? Only print what's needed based on your distribution list.

My catalogue looks excellent but isn't driving results – what could be wrong?

First, check your data analytics for blind spots – are you accurately tracking engagement and attributing sales? If so, your issue may lie with product availability (ensure you're not advertising out-of-stock items), pricing competitiveness, or failing to adequately educate/sell the reader on your products' unique benefits.

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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